'CrossFit Gives You A Lifestyle': In Conversation With Coach Anmol Gupta
We chat with CrossFit athlete and coach Anmol Gupta
Do you even CrossFit? It’s 8 pm on a Tuesday, and we’ve just finished a WOD (workout of the day) that looks like this: 4x8 front squats + 10 minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes) of a combination of thrusters, hollow rocks, and lateral hops.
If the above reads like Greek, it’s obvious you’ve never tried CrossFit. Meet Anmol Gupta, CrossFit athlete and coach and the man overseeing the 10 minute AMRAP hell we’ve just about survived.
We chat with Anmol about CrossFit, basketball and his very exciting fitness start up.
Let's start with 'What is CrossFit?' How would you explain the sport to a newbie?
So let me start by throwing out a definition. CrossFit can be defined as a fitness program which has constantly varied and high intensity functional movements. Now to break it down, it is a strength and conditioning programme which helps you improve at every component of fitness (strength, endurance, speed, flexibility, agility, balance, etc). CrossFit teaches and mixes together olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, calisthenics, mobility work, stretching, and makes a complete fitness programme for you. There is a new workout everyday which makes you look forward to your workouts and keeps it from becoming monotonous. CrossFit believes that workouts should be short and intense, rather than spending hours at the gym.
Is CrossFit for everyone? What differentiates it from a regular gym routine?
One of the most frequently asked questions about CrossFit is - "Is CrossFit for me?" And the answer is always YES. Irrespective of one's age, injuries and fitness level, CrossFit is a programme for every individual. The functional exercises done are safe and effective similar to movements that one does in everyday life. The workouts and exercises are tailored and scaled according to the individual's capabilities and then gradually the intensity is increased over a period of time. The everyday movements and activity done by a national weightlifter and a six year old are the same, so their training differs only by degree and intensity, not movement.
CrossFit and a regular gym differ in a few ways. At a gym, people mostly go for bodybuilding, where the training usually involves 15-20 mins of cardio (on a treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike) followed by training one or two muscle groups a day through isolation movements. Isolation basically means isolating or focusing on one muscle group at a time (like a chest day, back day, arms day, etc). Through isolation, people work on building their body to look a certain way. The focus is more on aesthetics and strength building, ignoring other components of fitness.
At CrossFit, we mostly do compound movements. Compound movements are ones where a person uses multiple muscles (or muscle groups) to perform a movement. It teaches different muscles to work in coordination and together.
Just to give you an example, if you are told to lift a 20 kg dumbbell from the ground and take it over head ten times as fast as you can - the first thought and intent naturally is to lift it with full force with your arms and shoulders. But if it is to be taught at CrossFit, you will be taught how to use your legs, lower back, hip, core and arms to lift it in the most efficient and safe way, distributing the stress amongst muscles, rather than burning out one.
The focus is on being efficient and feeling good; looking good comes as a by-product :)
Now the most important point of difference that CrossFit has is the community. CrossFit is about training together and pushing each other. That makes working out more fun and challenging. There's also another popular saying in CrossFit that explains the community aspect. “CrossFit: The only sport where the loudest cheers are for the one who is coming last.”
How did you discover CrossFit? Tell us a little about your personal journey and relationship with the sport.
I have always been super active in sports, right from when I was a kid. I’ve been playing basketball actively since I was 9 years old. When I graduated high school, I joined a regular gym. The intent was to build some strength and improve fitness to be better at the sport. I’d always been super skinny since school so it was important to have some muscle to be competitive on the court.
At the time, I didn’t know about any other fitness regimen. From day one, I focused on getting my movements right, rather than going beast mode with heavy weights and bad posture. Because of this approach, I was quick to learn movements. So I did that for about two years, after which I was introduced to CrossFit by a friend.
CrossFit was an absolutely different environment. There was a workout on the board which everyone has to do (your WOD or workout of the day). It was a group class (something I'd never done before), with people pushing themselves to another level, collapsing on the floor after the workout was over, doing olympic and gymnastic movements with ease. The scores and times were written on the board, with a coach overseeing your movements … and last but not least, there was no mirror for people to regularly check out their shiny muscles. It was a complete programme.
A class starts with a warm-up, then skill learning, then the workout, and finishes with cool down and stretching. There was a very raw vibe to it and right after my trial class, I knew it was for me.
After spending a month at a CrossFit box, being exposed to various exercises, skills and a wide variety of workouts, I experienced intensity which I had not felt ever before while training. So for me, CrossFit is the only fitness program that comes close to matching the intensity, adrenaline rush and competitiveness of a sport.
I was soon spending extra hours doing CrossFit. Learning new skills, new movements. I was absolutely addicted. I looked forward to it everyday. More than just a workout, CrossFit really teaches you a lifestyle; CrossFit really educates you.
The results of being regular with CrossFit started showing in my performance on the basketball court within a few months. I was faster, stronger and fitter than ever before. I started taking exercise more seriously. I became a fitness geek learning and reading about fitness and health. I began looking at movements with a different approach, helping newbies understand their body, learn certain movements and how to approach workouts efficiently.
Along the way, I also achieved a few personal fitness goals which I never thought I would be able to. I could deadlift almost 2.5 times my bodyweight. I learned to walk on my hands comfortably. I unlocked 22 unbroken pull-ups, jump 48 inches high vertically, do an unbroken 6-8 muscle-ups. So yeah, I was completely into it.
After spending over three years as an athlete, I took up coaching. I started teaching CrossFit and helping people with various fitness goals. Then in the second half of 2018, I also launched a fitness app called Ludis, which is an audio fitness training app for people of all fitness levels. So as of today, I've been actively into fitness for over 8 years and definitely counting :)
A WOD that you love, and a WOD that you hate. (Also, please explain what a WOD is)
WOD (workout of the day) is something which every CrossFit gym member really looks forward to, and at the same time is nervous about. There is a new WOD everyday. All members/athletes perform that workout and their name and score goes on the whiteboard. This keeps a little competitiveness in the air and also makes people push themselves. Examples of a WOD:
a) For time:
3 rounds of:
**In this workout, your score will be the time you took to finish the workout.
b) AMRAP in 10 mins of (As Many Rounds as Possible in 10 mins):
9 Deadlifts - 225lbs/155lbs
15 Box Jumps
21 Kettle bell swings
**In this workout, your score will be the number of rounds you finish in 10 minutes of the above exercise.
So talking about my favourite WOD. I like workouts which are short and intense. So my favourite workout would be a benchmark workout called Diane. It is:
21-15-9 reps of
Deadlifts - 225lbs
**My fastest time to finish this is 5 minutes 45 seconds.
I really don't know about the workout I dislike/hate. There's no such. But okay, to answer, I did this one workout in 2017, it was:
10-20-30-40-50 reps of
Dumbbell Snatches -
15 Burpee Box jumps after each round.
**I was dead after it. Almost puked. Had a headache for two days post. So yeah, hated that workout :P
You're an athlete AND CrossFit coach. Tell us more about your own training / fitness routine.
Talking about my workout / fitness routine, I love training, but more than that, I love playing basketball. My motivation to train hard is linked to it making me play better. So I do CrossFit 3-4 times a week. It involves both strength and conditioning. The strength bit again involves a lot of compound movements, mostly olympic weightlifting. Think clean & jerks, snatches and front squats - I love to do all those regularly. Then a lot of handstand pushups, pull-ups, kettlebell complexes and various plyometric exercises. The other days of the week are for playing basketball and swimming.
So in all, I aim to keep myself as active as I can. I don't always try to go all out hard at training, but always make it a point to squeeze in time for a good short and intense workout. CrossFit really teaches you how even 10 minutes of training can be brutal and effective :)
What about nutrition? How important is nutrition, and do you follow any kind of diet plan?
It's true when they say that to achieve any fitness goal, it is 70% nutrition and 30% exercise. Food is super super important. You can spend hours and days and months in a gym and will see no result if your food isn't right and if you’re not eating enough to fuel your workouts. It's also popularly said that dragging oneself to the gym is the hard part, but people into fitness know that food is the harder bit.
Whether the goal is weight loss, strength building, muscle building etc - food will always play a superior role to that of exercise. It is also not necessary that every diet works for everyone. It is essential for the person to know enough about his/her body type and fitness goals to know what food habits need to be adopted. The right quantity of carbs, fats and protein need to analysed to make sure one is eating as much as he/she needs to for their individual goals.
When it comes to my personal nutrition, I stick to clean eating. I have a tendency to lose weight easily and quickly. Even 7-10 days of no exercise and improper eating leads to weight loss. So I mostly eat homemade food -- all meals. I eat in high quantity as it’s essential for my body to support the kind of training I do. I make sure breakfast is the heaviest, that's very important. Lunch and dinner always include vegetables and dals along with chapati and/or rice. My meat consumption is not more than thrice a week. My remaining protein requirements are fulfilled by a whey isolate protein shake that I take post workout.
You're also a fitness entrepreneur. Tell us more.
Along with being a CrossFit coach, I have a fitness start-up, where I'm working on three different brands. The latest brand launched is The Healthy Cup (THC).
THC is a brand which provides you two absolutely new products in the Indian market, protein chai and protein coffee. One serving of THC has 12g of hydrolysed whey protein (the purest form of whey protein, easiest to digest) and it is India's first protein powder which is soluble in hot water. We have two flavours right now, Mocha Coffee and Ginger Chai. We will be launching more flavours very soon.
Please checkout the website to know more about the product.
The second brand/product is Ludis, which is an audio fitness training app. Ludis is India's only audio fitness training app. All you need to do is put in your earphones, choose your workout and you'll have a personal trainer guiding you throughout your workout. It's like a personal trainer in your ear. These trainers are real people who guide you and motivate you through the course of the workout you do. Our most popular workout categories are outdoor running workouts, treadmill workouts, ab workouts and strength training. You can download the app from the Play Store or App Store.
The third product is FX Tape. It is a kinesiology tape which helps you in recovery, pain relief and also supports ligaments during workout sessions. It is found to be super effective in getting over soreness and supporting your joints in moments of pain. We have a youtube channel which instructs and guides with the application of the tape.
Any hobbies outside of fitness? (Basketball doesn't count :P)
It's tough to think of a hobby beyond basketball or fitness, honestly. When I’m not working, I’m doing one of the two. So really can't think of anything else :P
Word of advice for someone just starting their fitness journey?
To newbies all I'll say is that don't be impatient and hard on yourself. Fitness is a never ending process, let it take its time. Shortcuts will give you results quickly but they will not be sustainable. Just be regular and give it time.
I also like to tell people that they should not restrict fitness and exercising only to achieving goals. It needs to be more than that. Make it a lifestyle.
Best CrossFit box(es) in NCR
One of the oldest and best CrossFit Boxes in Delhi is CrossFit Himalaya in Chhatarpur. They've also opened in Noida. Apart from that, there is CrossFit Create in Lajpat Nagar, and Bodh CrossFit and Reebok CrossFit in Gurgaon.